The NBA Draft is rapidly approaching, with each team looking to make their final preparations. The trades are beginning to fly in, with the Denver Nuggets and Oklahoma City Thunder recently making news for flipping picks. There has yet to be any real clarity on the Sixers‘ targets as they have been eerily quiet on announcing their pre-draft workouts. Kevin O’Connor recently reported that the Sixers are shopping their 23rd pick along with Danny Green.
What Does This Mean for the Sixers?
Unless the Sixers have eyes on a prospect, they hope to move up the draft board for, this likely means Daryl Morey is targeting a win-now veteran. Flipping Danny Green and the 23rd pick is a decent package for contending teams looking to get into the first round.
This should be no real surprise given the current state of the Sixers. It is rare for a rookie to be able to contribute immediately to a contending team. This is especially the case with an old-school and short-leashed coach like Doc Rivers in charge. The likelihood of Rivers playing the Sixers’ new rookie is pretty slim so flipping it in a trade package for a veteran makes sense. This is especially true considering how overly-reliant the Sixers were on Danny Green, who will miss at least the first half of the season with an ACL and LCL tear.
Would it be a mistake to trade the pick?
Due to the Stepien rule, the Sixers cannot trade this pick until draft night. They are unable to trade first-round picks in back-to-back years and do not possess a first-round pick next season. The loophole to this is that the pick can be traded during the draft, but there would need to be a player at the 23rd pick a team desires. There is a talented crop of players in this range that should be attractive to teams, and this package should be enough to draw a worthwhile return.
While Morey certainly should explore flipping the 23rd pick, to operate like it is a certainty it will be traded would be a mistake. This is a unique draft class where there are a good number of players fitting the Sixers’ needs in the range they are drafting. With the roster starved for wing depth and athleticism, guys like EJ Liddell, MarJon Beauchamp, Jalen Williams, Dalen Terry, and multiple others would all make a drastic difference.
These players should each be looked at through a different lens than a typical rookie. The Sixers spent last year’s first-round pick on Jaden Springer. It was great value on a guy who projects well in the long-term, but Springer was (and still is) far from contributing on the NBA level. This type of future upside swing may scar people from valuing first-round picks, but this is not always the case.
If there is a better option on the trade market, the Sixers should not hesitate, but the depth of this draft class should make Morey careful not to move out of the draft slot. EJ Liddell, MarJon Beauchamp, and Jalen Williams are each 21 years old and further in their developmental process than Jaden Springer. This is not a slight at Springer in the long-term; in fact, I still believe highly in him, but these types of wing options are much cleaner fits among the current Sixers team.
There also is not enough attention paid to the monetary benefits of using the first-round pick. Having a cost-controlled rookie for the first few years of their career is a massive benefit to every team. Especially given the looming contract that is set to be given to James Harden, it is important to win every margin.
In theory, it makes total sense to add a guy like Kevin Huerter. He is a clean fit within the team and would fill a position of need. However, when you consider the 4-year $65 million deal that Huerter is on, he may not be as appealing. When breaking down how all of the Sixers’ cap space will be used, it should be weighed if Huerter is that much more valuable than the $2 million the 23rd pick will be slated to make.
One of the greatest examples of young players outplaying their contract tag is Tyrese Maxey. The 21-year-old is set to make $2.7 million next season and has already greatly outplayed this level of value. This level of flexibility has made the contractual situation so much easier surrounding the Sixers.
The behind-the-scenes battle to win the margins has become increasingly important in professional sports. While the Sixers certainly need to upgrade at the wing position, using the 23rd pick as leverage may not be the best way to do it. Daryl Morey has a great deal of work to do with ten days to go until the draft. Choosing to trade the 23rd pick should not be as simple of a decision as it may seem.